In a world of professionals and designated experts we are
sometimes fooled into thinking that we really can’t (or shouldn’t) try and save
the old mill at the end of the lane or the library where great grand ma shelved
the books. We are “scared off” by the possibility that we will do something
wrong and cause more harm.
Well, as a professional storyteller and historian who has
been tasked with establishing a brand, building momentum and preserving the
Tara façade from Gone with the Wind with absolutely no formal training in that
area,…may I say “go for it”! For the number of projects and historic items that
should be preserved, greatly outnumber those willing and able to get it done.
For while you watch and wait for the “preservation cavalry to come riding over
the crest of the hill”…the historic site is losing its battle against time and
Consider that when the Tara façade arrived in Atlanta in
1959 it had been subjected to twenty years of California weather and it looked
like it. The building seen in 1959 just before its dismantling was in a
definite state of decay. And then when its planned museum in Atlanta did not
materialize, it was stored in Alpharetta in a set of old three sided car sheds
that make the current old dairy barn in Lovejoy look like a step up. In photos
I digitized the other day, Betty Talmadge is seen with her “crew” near an old
pine straw trailer carrying pieces of Tara into the dairy barn. Her conveyance
may not have been fancy but her goal was to obtain and hopefully protect,
restore and display it, and without her tenacity I wonder if any part of the façade
would still be in existence. Today few would recognize the front door of Tara
that is now on loan to the Margaret Mitchell House without Betty’s purchase and
her paying for the extensive restoration that made it presentable.
So my point today is this, you may be the “point man” (or
woman) who gets the program started. You may come in way down the line and step
in to take the project to the next phase or you may be the one that cuts the
ribbon on the newly restored mansion,… wherever you are in the line you are
helping to move the project forward. And the professionals will admit (behind
closed doors and away from cameras) that they can’t find them all, or fix them
all and the ones that do get “found and fixed” are mostly identified by the
folks of the community.
In a few weeks I will be giving the Tara façade tour to a
group that includes a couple of professionals from Washington, D.C. and you
better believe I will seek all the guidance I can get from them for I know they
are a great source of knowledge and they are on our side.